Government won't outlaw animal test requirement
The government will not overhaul regulations that require an animal test that leaves rabbits with irritated eyes, but is confident the tests will be phased out over time.
The New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society has launched a campaign to stop what it calls government support of the Draize test.
The acute toxicity test, known as the Draize test, is used to assess eye and skin irritation and is normally done on albino rabbits.
The "outdated" tests leave rabbits with irritated eyes – so severely in some cases the animals have to be killed.
Currently the regulations under the Hazardous Substances Act require data from the Draize test for any hazardous substance used in New Zealand.
Environment Minister Nick Smith said the Draize test was not being carried out anywhere in New Zealand and had not been for a long time.
The test was used as a "last resort" for testing hazardous substances, Smith said.
Smith said he could not justify a review of the regulations when New Zealand was moving in the "right direction" along with United Nations (UN) standards.
As a result of aligning with the UN's latest hazardous substances rules more references to the Draize test in New Zealand law would be phased out next year.
Smith said requirements for Draize testing was slowly being phased out and would be gone at some point altogether.
At the moment Draize testing was usually carried out to satisfy North American and European Union regulations, he said.
The New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society (NZAVS) campaign manager Tara Jackson said the society was encouraged to hear for the first time that the government was moving towards phasing out the Draize test.
"But slowly isn't good enough.
"Animals have already spent the past 70 years enduring these tests, a complete elimination of all references to the Draize test needs to happen now."
Jackson said it was irrelevant where the tests were done, New Zealand was still driving demand.
"These tests are happening somewhere and they are happening not because there are no other options but because the law in countries like New Zealand require it."
Non-animal tests were available and some were already validated by the OECD and are approved for use by New Zealand's Environmental Protection Authority, she said.
These tests included human cell and tissue models, isolated eye and cornea tests as well as computer modelling.